Homeland: Shalwar Kameez Review

This week's Homeland sees Peter Quinn make a decision about Carrie while she arrives for a chilly reception in Pakistan.

At the very end of tonight’s Homeland episode “Shalwar Kameez,” Quinn says the pertinent line, “Shit Carrie, you’re the hardest person in the world to say no to.”

Could the compulsion we all feel to keep watching Homeland be better surmised?

For all intents and purposes, the series that Homeland was during the first season, right down to the title designating it as set on U.S. soil (U.S. embassies notwithstanding) ended in season three. And quite honestly, it should have been wrapped up much sooner. But much like a PTSD-raddled Rupert Friend, the paradoxically tough-as-shrapnel girl with the world’s most fragile smile pulls us back in. And if it is more like this week, this can only be a good thing for us…Peter Quinn, not so much.

Indeed, after Homeland convinced viewers that Carrie would be a terrible mother—really we didn’t need a bathtub to realize that, and it’s more the pity that Showtime did—the stage has been reset for what season four needs to be: a new series that happens to star Carrie Mathison. And so far, this Pakistani relocation has only been improving its prospects.

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Barely off the plane and Carrie meets two very important forces of resistance against her unlikely rise from Drone Queen bungler to Islamabad Station Chief: John Redmond (Michael O’Keefe) and Laila Robins (Martha Boyd). The first is thus far a relatively annoying presence who is drawn in brushes far too broad for a Showtime series. He’s drunk in the morning, and openly defiant and sexist to his new boss. Granted the alcohol could lead to him making such poor decisions, but lest he oinked, he could not have done more in presenting himself as Carrie’s professional antagonist.

It appears that John was in line for Sandy’s job until Carrie blackmailed Lockheart, Carrie’s new second-in-command is none too happy. The only reason that I wouldn’t suspect he was in league with Sandy’s potentially treasonous actions is that Sandy seemed too smart in his lone wolf alpha male chest-thumping to trust this guy. While Carrie failed to make any friends this week, I suspect the rest of her network will be less bullheaded against her.

Boyd’s Secretary Robins is a far more intriguing presence on the show. Being nominally called “one of the good ones” by Saul, she is still nothing short of icy to Carrie’s presence in Pakistan—to the point of even ignoring what is in her embassy and country’s best interest, because Carrie is being so pushy in asking for the embassy lockdown to be broken.

However, her perspective of Carrie as a foreign presence that helped facilitate the diplomatic PR nightmare that makes the raid on Abbottabad look warm and fuzzy to Pakistanis is not without merit. Carrie Mathison screwed up big time and used inside CIA baseball to land this homerun gig. Spooks are spooky, and Carrie represents the potentially worst aspects of the vocation.

This isn’t the generic clash of bosses and employees on television; it’s the political class and the espionage voyeur colliding cultures in a most inhospitable setting. And Boyd’s subtle disdain bounces the curiosity of both off for a dynamic that could prove very strong later in the season. As two women stuck together, the jockeying for supremacy should be a benefit for Homeland.

Still, what is inarguably beneficial for all of television is the return of Saul Berenson, because it means more Mandy Patinkin. Apparently choosing Carrie over his wife, who will undoubtedly be out the door again, Saul makes an unannounced appearance in Pakistan this week. The best part? Carrie doesn’t want him either. Oh, how I cannot wait until he shows up again next week like Carrie’s loathsome guardian angel.

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Arriving as a contractor this week, Saul stays for only a few seeming days, which is long enough for Carrie to begrudgingly use Saul’s history with Laila to facilitate Carrie’s ability to leave the premises. Carrie just used a favor; she should know better than to expect Saul is leaving anytime soon. In a series that is in need of reinvention, seeing Carrie in a position of power over her mentor is a potentially terrific concept, as long as it avoids being too gimmicky in its role reversal.

Another shifting role is also marked this week with Fara Sherazi being back, and she is a far more confident field agent now than the meek analyst from season three. Indeed, her hijab is even gone, as she has become increasingly westernized. It doesn’t hurt that it reveals more easily Nazanin Boniadi’s beauty all the more. Yet, if she really is going to become Carrie’s go-to field agent playing a journalist, then she does look more the part of a London muckraker now.

Max has also come over to for what continues to be the most interesting subplot of season four: they are going to try to flip an unwitting Aayan into becoming a CIA rat. While it might be genuinely helpful for the character, as I don’t discount Carrie’s promises of schools in the west, I am even more positive now that we are witnessing the slow and steady transformation of a terrorist threat. How could we not as it will inevitably come to light that Carrie and Fara are the CIA?

The audacity it takes for Carrie to target the only survivor of an airstrike that she ordered—effectively having demanded this medical student dead only days prior to this episode—for manipulation speaks volumes about her. And she is not wrong. There is a reason he has been told to keep silent, which I suspect has to do with the “old man” he saw still alive during the first hour of the season when he woke up after the explosion. Nevertheless, for Carrie to try to appeal to his outrage at the CIA into giving her secrets that will endanger his life? Once the truth comes out, he will undoubtedly become a much bigger threat than he ever was as a milquetoast student. The disdain the armed forces displayed for the CIA’s lack of self-awareness or culpability from last week is as visible here as Carrie’s blonde hair.

But that is probably why Quinn is returning to her. After Quinn killed a child last year, I had assumed this season would be about him learning to leave the world of being a spook behind. But I sincerely doubt that anyone believed he would come to that realization during last week’s season premiere when he quit the CIA in spite of Carrie’s begging.

The guilt he has increasingly displayed for those he’s murdered has subtly added decades to Friend’s performance over the last few years. Looking exhausted and haggard, Quinn could be mistaken for the lost cause that Brody appeared in season one. Perhaps he is, because Dar Adal showed up on his doorstep with one hell of a bombshell: this is all about being in love with Carrie Mathison. He let Sandy die to protect Carrie.

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It is a soapish realization, but totally justifiable in this context. While I do not know what the Langley protocol is for what to do when a station chief gets dragged into the streets by a mob, Quinn deciding to protect Carrie in a split-second feels totally believable given his characterization. It’s an intrinsic truth about Quinn that papers over the narrative laziness of having Quinn be the one to figure out that Pakistani Intelligence orchestrated Sandy’s death. All of Langley’s analysts have been pouring over these YouTube videos for days, and Quinn is the only one to notice the guy with an earpiece?

But narrative convenience aside, it brings us back to the moment of truth for Quinn and the series. He knows he should get out, and that this will end ugly, yet he cannot stop himself from calling the boss (his male signifier for Carrie would probably amuse her). And she convinces him to come to Islamabad.

It is in this moment that I realize there is no happy ending now for Peter Quinn. Any chance he had of salvaging his life and conscience was sold along with his soul to Carrie’s pleading. But hey, she flashed that oh-so fragile smile for the first time this season. Quinn never stood a chance.

Similarly, considering how invested I currently am in season four, neither do we. Like it or not, Homeland has its hand on the trigger, and we can’t help but go down this hallway with it for another season. Like Quinn, I know it’s probably ill-fated, but for right now that grin is infectious.Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all news updates related to the world of geek. And Google+, if that’s your thing!


3.5 out of 5